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Monday, November 18, 2013

Pursuit of Happyness

My husband did his little victory dance last night. It involved a lot of hip-thrusting, arms raising, and various smug expression which all said: "Yeah I did it!". The reason? Peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

It is hard to believe this is the same man that only a year ago was a chain smoker and went bar-hopping to forget how much he hate his life. This is also the same man that a mere 6 months ago was in a constant debate on how ridiculous living in California was, that the same amount of money he paid for his huge house in Arizona was only enough to pay the rent of our small apartment here in California. And this is also the same man that a mere 2 months ago would come home and sat and watch video in the internet all night long, completely oblivious that I was also in the same house with him. He is still the same man. The only difference is that he's happy now, and he knows that he's happy.

So often I hear people say: Happiness is a choice. It was as if we can easily choose to be happy, just as easy as deciding to have pizza for dinner instead of pasta. But if you never had a pizza before, how do you know you'd prefer that over pasta? And even if you do know pizza, how do you know which would make you happiest: with pineapple instead of jalapeno, or pepperoni instead of ham? When my husband went into depression, it's one of the things people would almost always say to him: You need to be happy. Sure, but how? It's not that he didn't want to be happy, it's not that he didn't choose to be happy, it's that he didn't know how.

Happiness is not a choice. It's a state of recognition, a degree of awareness. You need to be able to see your life or your current condition objectively to find happiness, to realize whether your life was in fact really that sucks (or not). My husband got the cheat sheet. He went to Indonesia and got himself both a wife and a life changing experience. His trips to Indonesia change his whole perspective of life, and made him appreciate the perks and the infinitely easier life in the US. When I came to US, I was enthralled with all the little things that he was so accustomed to, and that in turn made him appreciate the life he lives in even more. It's the little things that counts.

Yet in a way, happiness is also a choice. In one of our heated argument during his depression period I told him: I need you to be happy because I deserve to be happy with you. As selfish as it sound, it worked. He acknowledged the things he would miss if he kept being depressed. He found things he like, and he pursued them. He laughed more. On rare occasions where his depression coming back with a vengeance, he would hold himself in tight check and wait till it went away instead of succumbing to it. He would smile even when it's difficult for him to smile. He wanted to be happy, and now that he can be happy, he choose to stay happy.

As I said, he got the cheat sheet, the (kind of) easy way to find happiness. It was by far an impressive feat, but he had his life experience and a perfectly compatible partner to help him found it. A lot of people don't have this privilege. A lot of people spend their life with the nagging emptiness inside them, which can not be satiated even with the fanciest cars or biggest houses, and even with the self-improved articles or advice from life-style gurus still couldn't see how they can be happy. As my husband put it: "I spend my youth thinking that I would be happy if I have a better car or house than my friends'; and at times I would have that urge, that insatiable craving that I just have to have something, like a designer shoe or latest gadget which I just can't rest until I have it. I don't feel that anymore."

Happiness is about being grateful, it's about accepting your situation and make the best of it, it's about self-control and desire to be better. Happiness is about loving yourself, and thus the life you live. It is not a constant condition and its intensity (or even its existence) may differ from time to time. But if you had more sunny days than rainy days, I think you did pretty good :).

My husband and I love to eat, and therefore we really enjoy our grocery shopping trips. We'd high-five when we found a good deal at the supermarket, or a simultaneously "Yes!" and arm pumping when we do price-checking and noticed we have previously bought the same item at another store for a better deal. A pizza toast on a bolilo roll for late-night snack is enough to made us grin with happiness. A trip to Santa Monica pier or a walk at The Getty was our idea of fun, but so does hanging out at the library or watching a concert in the park, or even our daily evening walk around the apartment complex. His (not-so) secret desire was to once again swing on a rope at Bali's waterfall and do a dangdut dance at the local carnival in Indonesia. Finding hidden geocache in the middle of a desert or in a busy park excites us. And yes, peanut butter and jelly sandwich for snacks. Those are the things that made us happy. What made you happy?

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